Frederick Paul, who lived at number 29, was certain as to the source of the disturbance. Through the walls of his living room he regularly heard the neighbours bickering but on this occasion something felt different. The disturbance was far louder than ever before. Against his better judgment, he felt compelled to investigate.
First, he would call the police… “999 Emergency… Which service please?” they had enquired before connecting him. Frederick had been told to stay indoors and await the arrival of the police car, and although it was uncharacteristic of him to ignore such a command, he had ventured outdoors.
The heavy frost made the garden path as slippery as an ice rink, and his every breath created a temporary fog around him; he persevered. His size 11 shoes left visible imprints down the frosted path. Frederick peered up at his neighbours' home, but was unable to see the downstairs windows due to the imposing hedgerow that separated their gardens. From the end of his garden it was merely a few steps to the garden gate of number 31, where Mr and Mrs Smythe lived. He stared at the undisturbed frost on their path. Clearly nobody had walked there for hours. He concluded that the Smythes were probably having another domestic. Mrs Smythe was the only person shrieking and screaming. It put Frederick on edge; his temporary bravado drained away and, sensing the Doppler of sirens already approaching in numbers, he decided to heed the officer’s advice and carefully retreated to the warmth of his own house.
Once back in the comfort of his living room Frederick did not follow the example of his nosey, curtain-twitching neighbours, but nervously sat back at his computer. Attempting to block out the harrowing noise still piercing the living room wall, he returned to the problem he had been attempting to solve for his latest corporate client. He felt no remorse at failing to intervene; the police would soon be at the scene. Another round of bawling echoed through the wall. He thumped his desk and covered his ears, but the noise continued. Why won’t she stop? he thought, callously.
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